Job 31 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Job 31
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

(1) I made a covenant with mine eyes.—Job makes one grand profession of innocence, rehearsing his manner of life from the first; and here he does not content himself with traversing the accusations of his friends, but professes his innocence also of sins less manifest to the observance of others, and affecting the secret conduct and the heart—namely, sensual transgression and idolatry. His object, therefore, is to show his friends that he has really been more upright than their standard demanded or than they supposed him to be, till his affliction made them suspect him; and this uprightness was the consequence of rigid and inflexible adherence to principle, for he made a covenant with his eyes, as the avenues of sinful desires. (Comp. Matthew 5:28.)

For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high?
(2) What portion of God is there from above?—Comp. the remonstrance of Joseph (Genesis 39:9).

Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?
(3) Is noti.e., Is not this the portion of Job 31:2?

Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?
(4) Doth not he.—The “He” is emphatic, obviously meaning God. His appeal is to the All-seeing knowledge of God, whom nothing escapes, and who is judge of the hearts and reins (Psalm 7:9; Psalm 44:21; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12). (Comp. Acts 25:11.)

If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit;
Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.
If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands;
(7) If my step hath turned out of the way—The form of the expression is very emphatic: the narrow way of strict integrity and righteousness. (Compare the expression applied to the first believers, Acts 9:2men of the way.)

Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out.
If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door;
Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her.
(10) Then let my wife grindi.e., perform all menial offices, like a slave.

For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.
For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase.
If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me;
(13) If I did despise.—In Job 22:8, Eliphaz had insinuated that Job had favoured the rich and powerful, but had oppressed and ground down the weak. He now meets this accusation, and affirms that he had regarded his own servants even as brethren, because partakers of a common humanity.

What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him?
Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?
(15) Did not he that made me in the womb make him?—He here meets the charges of Eliphaz (Job 22:6-7; Job 22:9).

If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail;
Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof;
(For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb;)
(18) For from my youth he.—The pronouns refer to the fatherless of Job 31:17 and to the widow of Job 31:16.

If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering;
(19) If I have seen any perish for want of.—Or, any wanderer without.

If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:
Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.
For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.
(23) I could not endure.—Rather, I was unable to act thus.

If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence;
(24) If I have made gold my hope.—He here refers to the admonition of Eliphaz (Job 22:23-24), and declares that such had not been his practice.

If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much;
If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness;
(26) If I beheld the sun.—It is remarkable that the kind of idolatry repudiated by Job is that only of sun and moon worship. He seems to have been ignorant of the more material and degraded kinds.

And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand:
This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.
(28) By the judge.—Rather, perhaps, by my judge, i.e., God; unless, indeed, there be any reference to the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 17:2-7), which does not seem likely.

If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him:
(29) If I rejoiced at the destruction.—He now proceeds to the realm of the wishes and thoughts, and is, therefore, far more thorough and searching with his own case than his friends had been.

Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.
If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied.
(31) Oh that we had of his flesh!—We should never be satisfied therewith. (Comp. the similar expression, Job 19:22.)

The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller.
(32) I opened my doors to the traveller.—The manners of Genesis 19:2-3, Judges 19:20-21, if not the incidents there recorded, are here implied. “The traveller” is literally the road or way: i.e., the wayfarer.

If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom:
(33) As Adam.—Or, as man, i.e., commonly does. There may or may not be here some indication of acquaintance with the narrative of Genesis. (See the margin.)

Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door?
Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.
(35) Oh that one would hear me!—The rendering noticed in the margin is probably the right one—Oh that I had one to hear me! Lo, here is my mark! i.e., my signature, my declaration, which I am ready to subscribe; and oh that mine adversary had written a book! More correctly, perhaps, “That I had the book or indictment that my adversary hath written; would that I had it in black and white before me, that I might deal with it accordingly, and answer it point to point.” Here, then, is the same deviation from strict sequence of order that we observed in Job 29:18. Job 31:35-37 ought to come after Job 31:38-40; but the writer’s ideas of symmetry and order were not as ours, and this, in some respects, may be more natural, though, strictly speaking, less correct.

Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me.
I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him.
(37) I would declarei.e., “I would readily give an account of all my actions, and meet him with alacrity and perfect confidence.” Others suppose the meaning to be, “I would meet him as I would meet a prince, with the utmost deference and respect, not at all as an enemy, but as one worthy of all honour and regard.” The actual meaning is uncertain. On the other hand, he has been spoken of by his friends: as a fool (Job 5:2), by Eliphaz; as a man full of words, a liar, and a mocker (Job 11:2-3), by Zophar; as perverse, wicked, and iniquitous (Job 11:12; Job 11:14); a blasphemer and a hypocrite, by Eliphaz (Job 15:4-5; Job 15:13; Job 15:16; Job 15:34, &c.); as wicked, a robber, and ignorant of God, by Bildad (Job 18:5; Job 18:14); as wicked and a hypocrite, by Zophar (Job 20:5); as extortionate and oppressive (Job 31:15; Job 31:19, &c.); as a tyrant and an impious man, by Eliphaz (Job 22:5; Job 22:9; Job 22:13; Job 22:17, &c.).

If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain;
(38) Or that the furrows likewise thereof complain.—Rather, Or if the furrows thereof weep together—a strong impersonation to express the consequence of oppression and wrong-doing. It is to be observed that throughout this defence Job has far more than traversed the indictment of his friends. He has shown that he has not only not broken the moral law, as they insinuated, but, much more, has shown himself exemplary in all the relations of life, so that, according to the narrator of the history, he was not only one that feared God and eschewed evil (Job 1:1), but also was perfect, i.e., of sincere and consistent conduct and upright.

If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life:
Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.
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